America is in trouble – serious trouble – the kind of trouble that can, and has, brought down lesser nations and civilizations.

War in Iraq, gas prices through the roof, unaffordable health care, homeless beggars on too many street corners, corruption rampant at every level of government, crime out of control – you name the problem and we have it in spades.

Americans don’t trust their government or their elected officials. Polls show more than half of us think the President of the United States is a liar and that Congress is corrupt and dominated by crooks and cheats.

Even worse, the evidence shows such beliefs aren’t wrong. Our President lies. The President before him lied. Those who find this appalling say it is a sign of the breakdown of our civilization. Others who defend such actions say lying comes with the job. The sad fact that some believe our elected officials should lie to us is yet another reason for concern.

Hate still abounds in our society. Too many people still call African-Americans “niggers.” Too many still regard Jews with distrust and bigotry. Too many gays get beat up on our streets.  Drop by just about any political or philosophical computer bulletin board and you see hate spouted as badges of honor.

Political partisans claim such problems are always the fault of the other side. Just put our party back in charge, they claim, and everything will be better.

Unfortunately, replacing one set of shrill political hacks with another solves nothing. The problems that divide our country are too deep, the extremism that dominates the political landscape from both the left and right controls most debate and polarization, not compromise, drives government into gridlock.

Real change cannot come without real reform and real reform means stepping back and admitting that our system has evolved into an unbearable mess driven by too much money, too much greed, too much lust for power and tool little regard for the people the system is supposed to serve.

The system cannot be changed as long as those who must approve the change benefit most from the current corruption. The Federal Election Commission recently predicted special interest groups will spend more than $1 billion on the November mid-term elections.  That’s 50 times what midterm elections cost just 20 years ago.

Real change means first asking a basic question: Can the system we have now be changed or must it be scrapped?

I’ve spent 40-plus years around this thing called politics, including a 10-year sabbatical from journalism to work on the inside of the system, and those four decades lead me to think the current system cannot be salvaged – or even if it should.

The attorney general of the United States, while serving as White House counsel to the current President, wrote that the Constitution is an “outdated” document.

Under George W. Bush’s often dictatorial rule, freedoms once guaranteed by the Constitution have become dispensable commodities – nuisances to be discarded when they get in the way of political agendas, wars based on lies and self-declared “wars against terrorism” based more on fear than fact.

We cannot, and must not, allow this destruction of a once-great nation called America to continue.  A country founded on resistance to tyranny must, once again, stand up for basic, inalienable rights like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

America does not belong to the Republican Party or the Democratic Party or to special interest groups or to big oil or energy companies.

America belongs to us – the people – and we’re the only ones who can take America back.

To help jump start such a movement, I’m starting a new non-partisan grassroots effort to educate voters on how our system can – and must be – reformed and just how we as ordinary citizens can make it happen.

We’re working out the final logistical details now and will launch this week.

Stay tuned for details. It’s our America and it’s time we exercised our rights as owners.